Nicole Grey (foenix) wrote,
Nicole Grey
foenix

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Black River: The Dead of Winter - Day 9

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And so it goes.  Another chapter done, and there's a couple of rough patches, but most of it got across what I wanted to.  I spent an hour tossing and turning in bed yesterday, hating everything I wrote that morning.  I decided I didn't really hate the wiriting, but it was a terrible diversion from everything.  It was stuff I wanted to write, but it was too much all at once.  The plot was seriously derailed.  So I've kept yesterday's words and are spreading them out over the next few chapters.

A lot of this chapter needs to be cleaned up, but it's workable.


Chapter Three - Book of Kells

        Many years ago, and many miles away, it was felt.  An awakening in a distant part of the country.  Some of the order felt it as if it was a bad dream, brought on by gas.  Others felt it as if the sun was just a little bit warmer, the birds were singing a little bit louder.  But one of them felt it the sharpest, the clearest.
        He was shocked awake from his slumber.  There was no grogginess when he awoke, his mind was as clear as it had ever been.  There was no scream filling his lungs and filling the room.  He knew it was no bad dream.  This was a moment of hope, a moment they had all been waiting for.  If others felt like the sun was just that much warmer today well, maybe it was.
        The man tossed back his sheets and swivelled his bare feet out and onto the cold, wooden floors.  The shiver shot all the way up his legs and into his hips.  If he had any questions as to whether he was awake or not, that all too familiar sensation dispelled any doubts.
        He looked out the large glass window and out across the city he called home.  He shielded his eyes from the rays of the sun.  Chicago remained unchanged.  Today was just any other day to the Windy City.  Nothing ever changed her, nothing ever would, not if they had anything to say about it.  So many people out there, teeming life going about their business with nary a clue as to what had happened, or what dangers lurked in the night.
        It was his job to make sure they never find out; his job and the order he worked for.  Although one could hardly call it work.  It was more of a calling.  A calling that had now spoken to another.
        The part of his calling that he did think of as work was about to begin again.  He gave a heavy sigh and stood up from his bed.  He padded to a nearby mirror and gave a passing glance at the reflection.  For someone in his early 20s, he did not look his age.  The stores had stopped carding him years ago, he looked that much older.  Even with his dark, black hair cut short he couldn't help but look ten years his senior.
        He gave a closer look, and rubbed his cheeks.  Shaving might help, but only for today.  Tomorrow would come and he would look aged all over again.
        The young man grabbed a pair of black jeans off the back of a wooden chair near the door to his room and a ragged t-shirt with the name of some band patterened on the front.
        He exited his room, still barefoot, out into a thrumming hive of activity.  Others were already awake.  Someone was always awake in the building.  At the very least, someone was watching over the five people sitting with their backs to each other in a circle, muttering.  You never knew when something they said might be important.
        The man's room was quite modern and stark, but the room into which he entered was quite the opposite.  It looked and smelled like an old library.  The walls were lined with books, and the space inbetween walls was filled with stacks, filled with more books.  Only the very center was left empty, and a perpendicular pathway midway down the center aisle, making a cross.  That was where he stood, at the end of one of the arms of the cross, just outside his room.  He was privileged above all others with such a place. He was at once honoured by this, and hated the responsibility.  He looked old, but was still quite young.  Younger than anyone else in his position.
        If the room felt like a church, the giant stained glass window to his left, at the head of the cross, did not help any.  Sunlight poured through it, sprinkling multicoloured shards of light all over the room.  It still felt too bright to him as he shielded his eyes again.
        Opposite from the window at the other end of the cross was where the five murmurring ones sat, three women and two men, staring expressionless at the walls.  Never had he heard them make anything that resembled sense, but at one time they had, or so he was told.  And one day they may yet again.
        Across from him, he gave only the merest glance to the elevator doors as he heard the familiar ding and the wood panelled doors slide opene with a slight rumble that could be heard even as far away as he stood.
        Another man who looked older than he, and certainly was, stepped out of small box.  He wore tan slacks and a buttoned shirt.  The look was just shy of urban professional, but above the attire of most people.  He exuded importance and authority even without a three-piece suit.
        His bald head glistened as he passed under the streaming coloured sunlight.  Not a single hair existed atop his head, but he made up for it with a white beard that framed his smiling mouth.
        "Ah, the prodigal arises!"  His booming voice filled the chamber, and not a single person even noticed, or gave any sign that they did, at least.  It was nothing that had not heard before.  "Did you feel it, Christopher?"
        Christopher grumbled.  "Of course I felt it, Joseph.  Why else does my trusted advisor think I'm awake?"
        "True, true.  It is early for you.  Not quite noon yet, and all."  The elder regarded Christopher with slight disrespect, but in a way reserved for old friends.
        "Do we know anything yet?  We've been waiting for this for a long time, we gotta have something."
        Joseph shook his head.  "Nothing yet.  It just was felt, and we're still tracking it down.  What can you tell us?"
        "It wasn't here, that's for sure.  I felt it...elsewhere.  To the east, I think."
        "Yes, that seems to be the concensus.  If you were awake, you might have been able to tell us more."
        "And if it had happened in the middle of the night, you might have been able to tell me less, old friend."
        "Touche."
        Someone cried out, interupting their conversation.  This voice did draw attention, filled with surprise and pleasure all at once.  Where everyone had been expecting Joseph's entrance, this new voice to the chorus of hums came as a surprise to all.
        "Vermont!"
***
        Kelly stared up at the figure over her as her vision came back into focus.  She must have hit her head after all.  She could have sworn she just heard the figure talk.
        The shadows shifted but the figure remained stationary.  Kelly squinted into the inky depths and as the stars overhead grew brighter, or her eyes became more adjusted, she could tell the figure was holding out his hand.  She was grateful it wasn't being offered to her injured arm, at least.
        Kelly took a moment to consider the offer.  What did his cryptic message mean?  The figure sounded like a he, at least.  But he had chased her through the woods, hadn't he?  Could she trust him?
        Of that, Kelly remained unsure, but if he meant her harm, then why offer to help her up?  He could have taken the same amount of time to bury a knife in her heart when she was dazed.
        So it was with cautious optimism that Kelly took his hand in hers.  He pulled the diminutive girl to her feet with ease.  Kelly almost didn't put any effort in at all.  She stood in front of her pursuer and looked up at him.  He was almost a foot taller than she was, and she could feel herself straightening up to lessen the gap between their heights.  Not that she thought it made her look the least bit more intimidating.
        With her eyes seeing with more clarity, she could tell the man's head was covered in a hood.  His face, while not yet clear, was more visible than it had been.  His eyes sparkled out from the shadowy confines of the hood.
        Their eyes locked and they stared at each other across the night.  She was assessing him as much as he was taking her measure.  At last, the man spoke again.  There was a coarse gruffness to his voice, like he had spent too many years smoking.  A certain quality to his voice also reminded her again of Darien.
        "I'm sure you have many questions," the intruder said.
        "Oh, you betcha, do I ever.  First up..."
        The man cut her short by holding up his hand.  Kelly stopped talking in an instant.  "My name is Christopher.  Christopher Franks."
        Kelly didn't know how well this new arrival could see her face, but she was sure he could see the surprise that lit it up.  "Really?  I know a Brendan Franks."
        The words had escaped her mouth before she had even realised they had been spoken.
        "There is a..."  Christopher stopped and Kelly sensed that he was considering his next words with great care and precision.  "Another Franks here.  Interesting."
        Kelly cursed herself for giving up information, even something as seemingly trivial as that.  Had he planned that?  Was that really his name?  Too many questions, and each one led to another three.
        "Why is that interesting?"  Kelly hoped for some quid pro quo, but she wasn't holding her breath for it.
        So when Christopher answered her, she was pleasantly surprised.  "I've come all this way to see you, and to discover another bearing my name.  I doubt it's coincidence.  It has an air of destiny."
        "Why are you looking for me?  I'm sure there are far more interesting people here for you to talk to."  There was that word again, interesting.
        "Not to me."
        "What makes me so special?"  Kelly grimaced, fearing the answer, and knowing things like this are the precise reasons she didn't want to be special.
        "You're like me," was all Christopher said.
        "Creepy and stalkery?  I think you've got the wrong girl."
        The figure shook his head, which was almost indescernable underneath his hood.  As if on cue, he pushed back the hood and revealed his face, as much as he could in the deep, dark night.
        Kelly squinted to get a better look, and the man looked old.  He must have been in his mid-30s.  But the lines on his face told a story beyond simple years.
        She had seen a similar look on people, in particular her own father.  He blamed his haggard looks on the time he spent at war before she was born.  She used to wonder if he would look the same when he came back from another tour of duty after she was born, but she never got to find out.  The next time she had seen him was when he was brought back in a pine box.
        "I'm older than I look," Christopher said when he saw Kelly staring deep into his features.
        Now that gave Kelly pause.  She had heard that line before.  She stopped squinting and opened her eyes.  Truly opened them.  This place may have, for whatever reason, cut off her connection to the ley lines she had discovered, but the circle had never interfered with her ability to see auras.
        Kelly had been so focused on the moment that she had not even thought to check Christopher and see if he had one.  Her belief and trust in her powers remained, and once she looked for it, Kelly could see the sparkling blue streamers floating off of the man, like steam off a fresh cup of cocoa.
        What had Christopher seen during his life?  What war stories could he tell her?  Did she even want to hear them?  At that moment, all she wanted an answer to was...
        "Why were you following me?"
        "Are you satisfied that I'm not undead?" he said, with a broad smile.  Kelly's unasked question of how was soon answered.  "I told you, we're alike.  If I was you, that would have been the first thing I would have checked for.  I'm glad to see you've learned a little about your gifts."
        A change washed over Christopher's face, and he tilted his head to the side, "But how did you learn that the dead don't have auras?"
        It was Kelly's turn to choose her words with care.  She had already given away too much, and she wasn't about to fall for that again.  "There was a number of students murdered recently, and I saw who did it.  Based on what I saw of him, I put two and two together..."
        With a little help from the Montroses, but you don't need to know about them, she thought.
        "Hmm," was all he said.  She could feel his piercing stare regarding her, and there was a flicker in his eyes.  "You're lying, but not much.  You're telling me parts of the truth.  Probably just holding something back.  That's good, that's smart.  I wouldn't trust me either."
        Again, Kelly blurted out without thinking, but she suspected it didn't matter if she confirmed the half truths or not.  He knew.  "How did you..."
        "You saw it, didn't you?"
        "Your eyes."
        "If you can read auras, if someone else is doing it, you can see the reflection in their eyes as they focus on that part of the spectrum."
        "You are like me."  Kelly stared in awe and relief.  There was someone else like her out there.  She might not be crazy after all, just caught up in craziness.  And if there are more like her, she's not special.  Or at the very least, she's not unique.
        "That's what I told you," he replied with a grin.  A grin that did not quite put Kelly at ease.
        "I have so many questions," she said.  She wanted to know so much.  Fear be damned, this man could tell her everything.
        "As it should be."
        Kelly rubbed her arms, and her companion looked at her, then around.  "You're cold.  It's late.  We should get you home."
        The girl nodded so hard Christopher thought her neck would snap.  He reached up to his neck and Kelly could hear a zipping sound.  He had been wearing a hooded sweatshirt, not a cloak like Kelly had thought at first.  Christopher tugged it off his arms and draped it over Kelly's shoulders.  It didn't offer much protection from the elements, but it was better than nothing and welcome all the same.
        "But what about you," she inquired.
        Christopher shrugged his broad shoulders and thrust his hands into his pockets.  "I'm ok for now.  Your car isn't that far away."
        "Again, the creepy stalkery stuff?  Not really making us friends here."
        "Understood.  I had to make sure you were who I thought you were."
        "And that would be?"
        "I had to make sure you were Kelly Scott."
        "Why wouldn't I be?"
        Christopher laughed, spooking some birds watching them from the trees.  Their flapping wings and cries of surprise faded with his laughter.  "Not like that.  But I didn't have a lot to go on, besides a name and a rough description."
        "So what tipped you off?"
        "Not many people can make floating, magical balls of light.  I was pretty confident I had my girl then."
        Kelly smiled and was grateful the night hid her flush cheeks.  "I guess that would be a bit of a clue.  Why didn't you come forward and say something?"
        "Um, I tried.  But you heard the branch snap under my foot and ran, remember?  I tried to catch up with you, but didn't manage that until you stopped here."
        Christopher looked around the clearing and the still shivering young woman.  "What say you conjure up some light and we get out of here?"
        Kelly looked down at her hands and turned them over and back.  "I'm not so sure I can do that anymore."
        Christopher took her hands and she could feel the warmth within them, almost painful thanks to the chill that had set into her own fingertips.  "Don't worry, that's just this place."
        "What do you mean?"
        "I think you know.  This place is an anomaly.  There are a few like it, but this one is the most powerful.  Or not powerful, I guess.  You've seen the lines of power?"
        Kelly nodded, listening and eager to pick up every little detail.
        "You've seen they're not here.  This place is an empty spot.  Everywhere has some trace of the arcane energy, some thread weaving out, connecting everything to everything else.  Except this spot, and the rare exceptions like it.  You couldn't work your magic here, because there is nothing to work with."
        The young girl spoke up, "Like dropping a plane in the middle of the desert, and telling someone to fix it."
        Christopher smiled and shook his head in amusement.  "An obscure movie reference, but you've got the idea, yes.  That's why the stones are here.  They work to focus what little power there may be, and draw upon the power just out of reach of us users."
        "Like fire hydrants for magic users."
        "A much better example, yes."
        Kelly looked concerned.  "Then why couldn't I do anything once I reached the stones?"
        "To continue your anaology, in a way, the pump needs to be primed.  No one has used these stones in decades, if not longer.  If you concentrated long enough, you'd find the power, either from the ley lines, or the river."
        "The river?"
        Christopher nodded.  "Yes, rivers are important, powerful in their own way.  Remember that, Kelly.  Rivers are like physical manifestations of the ribbons of power.  They're two sides of the same coin.  Where one isn't, the other is.  That's what keeps most of the world touched by power.  The fact that this spot exists here, amidst the natural threads, and the Black River is an amazing anomaly.  This spot literally should not exist.  That's why it was special, worshipped, and why the stones were placed here.  It must be protected."
        "Protected by people like us?" Kelly asked.
        Christopher smiled at how quick she was.  He knew she was a cheerleader and feared the worst, but his fears were being put to rest.  She was asking all the right questions.
        "And the stones; they were built by people like us?"
        "Right again.  You're doing great."
        Kelly considered her next question before speaking.  "So, what are you?  What are we?"
        "We, Kelly, we are druids.  We are people who draw upon the power of the earth itself to make it do our bidding.  We are visionaries and guardians of the planet and its people.  We guard the earth from what lies beyond, and comes from within."
        It was so much for Kelly to take in.  Her head was swimming from Christopher's words.  She knew she had abilities, but now she had responsibilities too?  She wasn't sure she was ready for any of this.
        "And you're here because..."  Kelly didn't want to finish the thought.
        "I have come to find you, now that your powers are awakening.  We've known of you for some time, and waited for you to blossom into your potential.  The time has come, Kelly.  I have come here to take you away, and teach you in our ways."
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